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Belestre – Prisoner at Fort Loudoun

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François-Louis Picoté de Belestre  is the full name.

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This French Ensign was taken as prisoner to Fort Loudoun Winchester VA.

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Compiled by Jim Moyer 2016, 6/10/2018, 6/11/18, 6/12/18

Picture by Jim Moyer of the Cherokee greeting our Captain George Mercer at Fort Loudoun Winchester VA

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See those Cherokee in the picture?

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They are greeting Captain George Mercer

at Fort Loudoun in 23 April 1757.

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One of the Cherokee in that picture was Swallow.

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More than a month later June 6, 1757,

Swallow dies in a skirmish

which accomplished

capturing Belestre as a prisoner

to be held and questioned

at Fort Loudoun Winchester VA.   

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Swallow Warrior was Shot dead by a Ball in the head.

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For follow up, was our Cherokee ally, Swallow, named after the legend of the Frog swallowing the Sun, to explain eclipses of the sun?

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Disambiguation

Beware not to confuse the above with the father, François-Marie Picoté de Belestre.

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Father is François-Marie.

The prisoner captured is the son – François-Louis.

Both have the last name Picoté de Belestre.

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Confusing Father with son  is easy for two reasons:

1. Both were in French and Indian War theatre at the same time.

2. Both names are very similar.

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The Story of this Prisoner held at Fort Loudoun

The following links are from the French and Indian War Foundation newsletters.

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Please scroll down to reach the story on François-Louis Picoté de Belestre by  Steve Resan on this French prisoner, Part I and Part II .

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Adrian O’Connor’s Valley News column provided by Dr Carl J Ekberg

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Chronology to show

how packed the News

was from April to July


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April 24, 1757  148 Cherokee visit George Mercer at Fort Loudoun Winchester VA

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May 5, 1757 Virginia Regiment relieved of responsibility for Fort Cumberland. Maryland is to take over completely.

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May 16, 1757   Reorganization of Virginia Regiment from 16 to 10 companies, and for Lt Col Adam Stephen and Captain Mercer to help Gov Littleton in Charleston SC and Colonel GW inform Edmond Atkin is to control allied Indian affairs.

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June 10, 1757  Cherokee and Virginia Regiment Scout return to Winchester reporting  that Cherokee Swallow was killed in skirmish. They bring back the French prisoner Belestre captured in that skirmish

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June 3, 1757, Edmond Atkin assumes control of Indians in Winchester VA, but he wants to extend his control of who get to interrogate the French officer Belestre first, 19 June 1757.

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June 14, 1757  Dagworthy warning a large body of the enemy is approaching

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June 16, 1757 Council of War held at Fort Loudoun Winchester VA to discuss the threat of invasion

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June 25, 1757  Warning of invasion no longer true. Main enemy force heading to Fort Augusta PA instead

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July 29, 1757 Two deserters are executed by hanging at Fort Loudoun Winchester VA.

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Story of the Skirmish

and capture of Belestre


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VIRGINIA REGIMENT VERSION:

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From James Baker writes to Colonel GW

10 June 1757

Fort Cumberland [Md.] June 10th 1757

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Sir

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I Yesterday returned to this place

[ meaning Fort Cumberland ]

with the Cherokees

and have the Satisfaction t

o acquaint you that on

the 5th Instant

we fell on two Tracks

about 35 Miles beyond

the three Forks of Yohagany

in a small path that led

towards this place,

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we had not followed those Tracks

above eight or Ten Miles,

before we met 10 Frenchmen

returning from a Scout,

our foremost Indian

discovered them first

and sat down very cose

we all following his example,

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when the Frenchmen came

within about fifty paces

they saw our Men all Naked,

and called to us

and ask’d who we were,

at which time we all rising together

fired on them

which they returned,

we waited not to lode again,

but run in with our Tomahawks

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the Frenchmen then

making of as fast as they cou’d,

but the Indians out runing them

took two of them prisoners,

the French lost six Men

two killed dead on the Spot,

two wounded,

and two taken prisoners[.]

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Our loss tho’ fewer in number i

s greater to us, the

Swallow Warrior was Shot dead by a Ball in the head,

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and another Indian Wounded in both Thighs[.]1 

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The Indians was so enraged

at the loss of their head Man

that it was imposible

to save the other prisoner.

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Among the Frenchmen

there was three Officers,

two of which was killed

and the other we have here.2 

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I send the Instructions of two of the Officers here inclosed. We have suffered greatly on our return not tasting a morsel for four days, and carrying the Wounded Man on our backs. I cannot tell when I shall come down the Indians are not determined I am Sir Your Most Obt Humble Servant.

J. Baker

ALSDLC:GW.

1. According to James Livingston, the wounded Indian was the Swallow Warrior’s son (Livingston to GW, 14 June 1757).

2. For the French version of the encounter see GW to John Stanwix, 15 June 1757, n.2.

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Source of letter from Baker:

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-04-02-0117

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See Another letter coming from Fort Cumberland 14 June 1757 describing the skirmish and the prisoners taken.

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From George Washington at Fort Loudoun to John Stanwix, 15 June 1757

To Colonel Stanwix
Sir,

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I have the pleasure to inform you, that a scouting party, consisting of 5 Soldiers, and 15 Cherokee Indians, who were sent out the 20th ultimo, towards the Ohio, under Lt Baker, returned the 8th instant to Fort Cumberland with 5 scalps, and a french Officer prisoner; having killed two other Officers of the same party. Mr Baker met with this party (10 french, 3 Officers) on the head of Turtle-creek, 20 miles distance from Fort Du Quesne (the day after they had parted with 50 Shawnese Indians returning from war) and wou’d have killed and made prisoners of them all, had not the death of the indian chief, who was killed in that skirmish, prevented their pursuing them.1

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The name of the Officer, taken, according to his own account, is Velistre [this is misspelled – this is our prisoner Belestre ]; and of those killed, Lasosais and St Oure, all Ensigns.2

This Officer   [ my note – our prisoner Belestre] likewise says, that the Garrison at Fort Du Quesne consists of 600 French and 200 Indians. I believe he is a Gasconian.

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Source:

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-04-02-0128

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Gasconian?

See more about what was thought of Gasconians.

See more about the area called Gascony.

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THE FRENCH VERSION:

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2. The governor general of New France reported to Paris on 12 July 1757:

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“The English had no other successes

against us until June 5th,

when we lost Messieurs de La Saussaye,

St. Ours, and Bellêtre [Belestre],

the first an ensign en pied 

in the troops of Isle Royale,

and the two others ensigns 

en second in the troops of this colony.

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These 3 officers were returning

with 3 Canadians from Fort Cumberland,

where they had no opportunity to attack.

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They were slain

with the 3 Canadians

a little this side of the height of land,

by 20 Englishmen or savages lying in Ambush,

who fired point blank at them”

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(marquis de Vaudreuil to the Minister, in Stevens and Kent, Wilderness Chronicle of Northwestern Pennsylvania, 98–104).

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Source of Founders Online footnote above:

http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-04-02-012

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A great Argument

about who has the Right

to Interrogate the prisoner,

Belestre


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this section added by Jim Moyer 6/11/2018

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More to follow on this part of the story.

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Atkin, the Indian Agent in charge of Indian Affairs is upset that some of Washington’s men interrogated the French Officer prisoner before he Atkin had.

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To George Washington from Edmond Atkin,

19 June 1757

Sir,

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When the Swallows People

came to Town this afternoon,1

with the Young French Officer their Prisoner,

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they came strait to my Lodgings,

to pay their Compliment;

and soon after carried him away to their own,

to eat some Victuals,

Hunger being uppermost in their Thoughts.

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In the Evening,

before I would put you to the Trouble

to attend

(as I had determined

to examine him

then in the presence

of yourself, &

Mr Croghan Sir Wm Johnson’s Deputy),

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I Sent to inquire

whether I might

have him brought to me.

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And he was not to be found …

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Soon after standing at my door, I Saw your Quarter Master Mr Hamilton hastening by, in quest, as I learnt from himself, of my Interpreter (that is the King’s) Mr Smith, & of a Frenchman whose name he declined telling me, in order to carry them to Heath’s Ordinary to interpret for one or two Persons that wanted to talk with the Prisoner.

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In answer to My Question, how the Prisoner came there, he Said, he was carried there by an Indian and to another, who was it that wanted to talk with the Prisoner, I could get no Satisfactory Answer at all from him. At his Return with Mr Smith in Company, standing still in the Door, I charged the latter to go to Heath’s, & to bring away the Indian with his Prisoner directly to me.2

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At the Same time directing myself to both I Said,

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 I wondered how any Person whatever could presume (I beleive in my warmth I said also, dare) to take that Method to examine the Prisoner,

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before I myself, or you the Commanding Officer of the Forces here, had had an Opportunity of asking a single Question of him?

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Source:

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-04-02-0144

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Who is to handle

Allied Indian Affairs?


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A big reorganization, 16 May 1757, of the Virginia Regiment, reduced number of companies from 16 to 10 and of “technically” or “officially” of relieving Colonel George Washington with allied Indian Affairs and installing Edmond Atkin in charge of our allied Indians.

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Another big change earlier was on 5 May 1757, relieved the VA Regiment of any responsibilities for Fort Cumberland and for Lt Col Adam Stephen and Captain George Mercer to help Governor Littleton in Charleston SC.

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4. Edmond Atkin (b. 1707), an Englishman and longtime merchant of Charleston, S.C., was in England from 1750 until 1756 when he persuaded the Board of Trade to create the office of superintendent of Indian affairs for the southern colonies and secured the position for himself. Atkin joined Lord Loudoun in New York in October 1756 and remained with him until after the conference with the governors in Philadelphia in March 1757. Atkin left Philadelphia on 26 Mar. and came to Williamsburg. In early June he went to Winchester, arriving there on the third.

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June 3, 1757, Edmond Atkin assumes control of Indians in Winchester VA, but he wants to extend his control of who get to interrogate the French officer Belestre first, 19 June 1757.

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Should not Colonel George Washington and he, Edmond Atkin, interview the prisoner first?

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What was the intel

from Interrogating Belestre?


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GW writes  to Stanwix on 15 June 1757:

The name of the Officer, taken, according to his own account, is Velistre [this is misspelled – this is our prisoner Belestre ]; and of those killed, Lasosais and St Oure, all Ensigns.2

This Officer   [ my note – our prisoner Belestre] likewise says, that the Garrison at Fort Du Quesne consists of 600 French and 200 Indians. I believe he is a Gasconian.

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Source:

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-04-02-0128

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Other Reports Match Belestre’s intel?

Some French deserters disputed the report of Belestre’s numbers.

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INVASION THREAT emerges


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Summary

Colonel George Washington reads between the lines.  Captain Spotswood is missing, right at the same time Baker reports success of capturing Belestre, a French Officer.  But Indians and members of Spotswood’s company show up at Fort Cumberland warning of a large body of the enemy with artillery is approaching.  Washington wonders if these men and Indians deserted Spotswood.  But Colonel George Washington has to take this report of an invasion seriously.

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Dagworthy warning a large body of the enemy is approaching, 14 June 1757.

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Council of War held at Fort Loudoun Winchester VA to discuss the threat of invasion, 16 June 1757.

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To George Washington from John Stanwix,

18 June 1757

From John Stanwix

Camp near Carlisle [Pa.] June. 18th 1757

Sir

I recd both yours of the 15th & 16th of June, by the Favour of Colonel Armstrong & some hour’s before that had recd intelligence from Capt: Dagworthy & Capt. Beal of their intelligence of the Motion of the French & Indians towards Fort Cumberland,1 on the receipt of which I directly apply’d to the Magistrates here for Waggons, for the Baggag artillery, Ammunition and Provisions: & the moment they are provid’d shall March with the Five Comps. of the First Battalion of the Royl Americans and what I can get together of Colonel Armstrongs Battalion wch I am hopefull will amount in the whole to six hundred men,

.shall march to Shippensburgh and from thence towards Winchester2 

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as I am inform’d there is thirty miles the other way to Fort Cumberland thrô the woods where there is no roads cut,

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and am the more inclin’d to come to Winchester to joyn you as it semes to be (for the reasons you give) the properest place to make a Stand

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& concert such measures as may be best for his Majestys service and shall depend a good deal upon your judgment & experience in the Opperations in this Country, which you know by being long in it & I a Stranger have consult’d Col. Armstrong who think’s with me that Winchester will be the properest place for a Rendevous & exept I meet with other intelligence on my March must make that my first object, hope soon to have the pleasure of kissing your hands who am Sir Your most obedt humble Servt

John Stanwix

 Postscript –

I have a letter from Capt. Croghan who tell me he stay only two or three days at Winchester as his getting my letter would be uncertain please if you think propr to acquaint him with what I propose, & am a good deal hurryd or would have wrote to him dare say he will do that upon consulting with you, which may make the Indians of service, both you and he know infinately better then I can possibly know of Indian affairs.3

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P.S: I have just recd intelligence from Fort Allen in Pensilvania that an Indian lately come from Alleghany

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Says that the French Indians has actually cut a Road within ten miles of Fort Augusta,

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it appears they design to amuse us in Sundry places,

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And as I am leaving a Large County Open into which is a great Road cut from the Alleghany Hills, I must depend on your Intelligence being expeditiously sent that I may take my measures accordingly.

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ALSDLC:GW.

1. John Armstrong (1717–1795) was a lieutenant colonel in the Pennsylvania forces; Alexander Beall was commander of the Maryland forces at Fort Frederick, Conococheague.

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2. Word that it was all a false alarm reached Colonel Stanwix before he began his march to Winchester. See Stanwix to GW, 22 June 1757 (first letter).

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3. The Pennsylvania Indian agent George Croghan (d. 1782) arrived in Winchester with Col. John Armstrong and other Pennsylvanians on 13 June to confer with Edmond Atkin about their past and future dealings with the Cherokee parties headed by Wawhatchee and Youghtanno (see GW to Dinwiddie, 10 June 1757, n.1). David Ross and others came over from Maryland for the same purpose. All of them except Croghan and William Trent left on or before 16 June when word from Dagworthy of the supposed invasion made it possible for Croghan to persuade Atkin to allow him and Richard Smith to take a party of forty-seven (by Atkin’s count) Cherokee to Pennsylvania, and Croghan arrived at Fort Loudoun in Pennsylvania on 27 June with fifty-five Cherokee, drawn probably from those who had gone out with Smith and Andrew Lewis at the end of April. The Cherokee remained to serve as scouts for Colonel Stanwix until mid-July.

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Stanwix may have known little of Indian affairs but his letter of 12 June 1757 to Gov. William Denny suggests that he understood Indian agents well enough: “I find all those employed as Agents very jealous of one another, and I can perceive Mr. Croghan so of Colonel Armstrong, and by the enclosed [Atkin to Croghan, 8 June 1757] you will find Mr. Atkins so of them all, as well as of the Provinces” (Pa. Archives, Col. Rec., 7:598–99).

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